Switched On: NETHERWORLD – Vanishing Lands (Glacial Movements)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

There is a powerful message behind Vanishing Lands. The most recent album from Glacial Movements‘ head Alessandro Tedeschi under the guise of NETHERWORLD, it is – in his words – ‘a cry of desperation…the realization that we are one step away from the abyss’.

Whereas many Glacial Movements albums celebrate the vast spaces of our environment, particularly the cold ones, this one does so in a troubling context. During lockdown, Tedeschi committed his thoughts to record on the gradual disappearance of the vast white expanses over which you can see the Northern Lights – ‘ice-covered volcanoes and silent expanses of snow and ice stretching as far as the eye can see;.

What’s the music like?

What’s the music like?

Rather appropriately, Vanishing Lands starts out with what sounds like the tolling of a very distant bell. There is the strong implication of a soft breeze, with shrill treble sounds blowing across the stereo picture of Last Sunset, the album’s first track. Towards the end, pure treble voices calmly coo across the picture, a snapshot taken in the middle of a much longer phrase. This first track runs for a quarter of an hour, serene but darkly coloured and ominous, too.

Thwaites is deeply mysterious, presenting a very intriguing perspective on headphones. The movement is in the middle foreground, like flecks of cloud or interference, while a sonorous mid-range hum at the very back throws the perspective wide open. Then Slow Moving Streams is an intriguing call and answer, whereby a slightly guttural, low synthesizer tone is responded to by a higher, vibrato-rich vocal.

The album’s progression is compelling. The Beauty Of Places Where There Is Nothing To See has an appealing remoteness but there is also a note of sorrow in the far-off cries of electronic birds and mammals. Comet has piercing timbres that streak across the cold surface beneath, before Vanishing Lands enhances the anguish. Initially cool and ambient, it has elements of protest in the voices that rise up, as well as primal pain.

Does it all work?

Yes. Be warned though, as while this is still essentially an ambient album it is a painful one too, an acknowledgement that those big spaces so often celebrated by Glacial Movements are under serious threat. As NETHERWORLD shows us the plight of those spaces, it operates under a very wide dynamic range, with some moments where the music is so quiet that you will have to lean into it.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Vanishing Lands is a brave set of searing observations packed into an album. One of Alessandro Tedeschi’s most intense pieces of work, it is a powerful and wholly meaningful addition to his canon. Make sure you hear it.

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In Gratitude – David Fraser, Stewart Brown & John Bourke

by Ben Hogwood

I wanted to place on record my appreciation for three very different but fiercely passionate musical contacts we have very sadly lost in recent weeks.

My heartfelt condolences go to the family and friends of David Fraser, who until recently worked for the excellent distributor Proper Music. David headed the press and marketing facility in the UK for the prestigious ECM label, a position from which he was able to make many enlightening musical recommendations. I remember him as a generous, kind-hearted contact who was always pleased to talk and continually modest about his vast musical knowledge. Thank you, David – I shall miss our chats, and include one of our mutual loves, the music of György Kurtág – one of his Bach arrangements – below:

The world of classical music has also been paying tribute to Stewart Brown, who died earlier this month at the age of 69. Stewart founded and ran the Testament label from 1990 onwards, creating an important resource of historical recordings that were largely remastered on his watch. Many an EMI recording was enhanced at Stewart’s hand, and we will greatly miss the excellence of the projects he oversaw.

I only know a fringe of the Testament catalogue well, but the recordings I have reviewed and enjoyed include Erich Leinsdorf conducting Prokofiev, Carlo Maria Giulini’s Bruckner, Sir John Barbirolli’s Mahler, a chamber recital from David Oistrakh, Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten in recital at the Aldeburgh Festival, one of the label’s most recent releases, and a wonderful series of Clemens Krauss conducting Richard Strauss. All those recordings are testament (pun intended) to Stewart’s eye for a valuable recording, and us record collectors owe him heartfelt thanks for his achievements. Most importantly – as his close friends have confirmed – he was a lovely man.

The third of my musical musketeers is John Bourke. I never met John, but while he was running his own music PR enterprise we built up that most modern of musical friendships, a regular e-mail and social media correspondence. Whenever he had something he genuinely thought I would enjoy, John would be on the virtual blower.

That is the key element – John was never too pushy with the music he was promoting, unless he felt the listener / reviewer would appreciate it, and our friendship grew on that assumption. Several of Arcana’s interviews and playlist features are the result of John’s thoughtful prompting, while a great many more of my musical discoveries, especially the Glacial Movements label – were made possible through John’s correspondence. Thank you John – and I hope that wherever you are resting now that you have the most ambient of electronic music to keep you company.

Switched On – Amphior: Another Presence (Glacial Movements)

amphior

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

This was made during the first Covid lockdown, described by its author as ‘a strange vacuum of feeling lonely and isolated’. However Amphior – aka Mathias Hammerstrøm – emerged from the period with a positive outcome, connecting with himself as a person and addressing some long-held feelings on introversion and sensitivity. Another Presence allowed him to express those feelings and be more himself in the process.

What’s the music like?

Haunting. It is possible to hear what sound like disembodied voices in many of these tracks, and though they are not noticeably lyric-based there is a primeval vocal quality to a lot of Amphior’s writing.

Void, the first track, has wisps of sound in the middle ground, some of them vocal, above a distorted and cracked profile underfoot, like standing on a large geological feature in a cold wind. The voices become more ominous in the course of the second track Phantasm, as does the darker musical language. After these two heavier pieces of music, Imaginary Shelter is just what’s needed, a comforting wash of sound and soothing harmonies. Dream Traveler offers the same welcoming cushion, though is consciously on the move, with that sounds like slow footsteps in the snow. The slow walking continues, with gradually changing vistas, as Sleepwalker takes in a range of colours both dark and light, before Pathfinder pans right out again. The warm colours of Another Presence find Amphior returning to a settled harmonic base, from which What Was Lost offers thick ambience if a hint of unresolved conflict, before ultimately fading away on the wind.

Does it all work?

Yes. Through the eight tracks here Amphior captures both the claustrophobia and strange, twisted freedom lockdown seemed to offer in equal measure, the qualities complementing each other while never becoming fully satisfying. Here the music is ultimately satisfying, finding its resolution from darker thoughts and feelings earlier on.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Another Presence is an affecting and occasionally disquieting listen, moving at a very slow pace as it examines feelings and experiences held deep beneath the surface. Ultimately those examinations bring forward a positive and deeper calm, the listener able to appreciate the long form ambience of this extremely descriptive album.

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Guest mix – John Sellekaers

It is our great pleasure to welcome John Sellekaers to the Arcana playlist section.

In fact the Brussels-based, Canadian born musician has gone one further and contributed an hour-long mix which, to be honest, is an absolute treat. Just a few seconds of Andrew Wasylyk’s Blossomlessness #2 is all it will need for you to mentally cast off the cares of modern living and float into pure musical ambience.

The mix develops with some lovely contributions from Simon McCorry, Atom TM, Loscil and Mark Van Hoen to name just a few, and gradually Sellekaers introduces more beat-based work to his equation – before pulling back and letting the music create a wonderful amount of space.

Arcana reviewed John’s new Observer Effects album on the Glacial Movements label back in August, finding its immersive ambience ‘coldly effective’ – a compliment to the purity of his productions. The same applies to his DJing, as you will find here.

Our thanks to John for this wonderful selection of music:

Switched On: John Sellekaers: Observer Effect (Glacial Movements)

john-sellekaers

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Observer Effect is an album fed by history, countless stories and books’, reports John Sellekaers. The Brussels-based musician, who also works in other art forms as an engineer, photographer and designer, is approaching this album through the view of a pioneer explorer. He is imagining the experience of visiting a new region for the first time in history, pondering how his arrival in an undiscovered area changes the previously unseen habitat – and exploring the effect it has on him. Given Glacial Movements‘ musical history the points of reference that come to mind are the North and South poles, and the remote areas on their approach – or even another planet entirely.

What’s the music like?

Observer Effect starts like an extended tidal system. Big, single chords ebb and flow with a reassuring regularity. Occasionally a less certain sound imposes on the cycle but generally the outlook is one of vast ambience. Slowly the landscape passes by, the listener seemingly positioned on a slow moving method of transport with the scope to take in wide vistas. Gradually the scenes change over time, but occasionally a darker side is revealed, as though the introduction of man-made elements is threatening the natural change.

A thicker treble pitch makes itself known at the start of On The Trail, an intense and sustained note, and as this track evolves a more distorted sound, like a long guitar note, creeps into the consciousness. After this burst of intensity, a dense blanket of sound descends for Shelter, which takes on more definitive brush strokes. In The Lightest Night takes on eerie harmonies and a strong current of uncertainty, heightened by the displaced harmonies of Optical Haze Pt. 1, which plays with the listener’s perspective, especially on headphones, before charting a much deeper course towards the end.

Parasomnia creaks as though under stress from something, before the substantial Water Sky takes a repeated phrase of one note and runs with it, the tidal system returning to the listener’s consciousness. Finally Optical Haze Pt. 2 offers a calmer scene and ultimately rest.

Does it all work?

It does – and is most effective when listened to as a whole. Sellekaer’s music is unusual, for it manages to imply melodies while using very few notes, and emotions are portrayed through texture just as much as harmony. It is coldly effective, difficult to always relate to on a human level but compelling all the same.

Is it recommended?

Yes. Observer Effect proves a worthy addition to the Glacial Movements canon of immersive ambience, telling a powerful story in its relatively few notes. Fans of the label need not hesitate.

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